Guest Reviewer Mehera Dennison
Strangest device: cock rings
Preferred intervention: human hand
Source of common terror: retina
Wish: to never know unhappiness again
If Greger's book tells a story and Gerstler creates a type of consciousness, then C. D. Wright's book is a mood. By far the most interesting formally and thematically, Wright's seventh collection actually has the command power of its title, Tremble, for the willing reader. Plus it has a lot of sex, and I learned a synonym for "urination." The book itself appears quiet, and, half an inch shorter than the other two volumes of poetry, it certainly feels different. The first poem, mysteriously entitled "Floating Trees," consists of mostly couplets with one tercet and a single line and three somewhat random capital letters. It begins with an odd angle: an image of a mirror gazing at a bed which may or may not be peopled (and may be capturing the floating trees if we imagine a window). There is a sketch of two characters, a he and a she, who seem to populate, unnamed, many of the poems in the rest of the book. We are introduced to the odd syntax that sometimes fills these poems: "like the fir trees he trues her." We are introduced to the silliness that overtakes some poems: "'I didn't mean to wake you / angel brains.'" Since many of the following poems are about sex, it seems fitting that we are introduced to a bed--"bed of swollen creeks and theories and coils / bed of eyes and leaky pens." And we are in a room (a room which "befalls you") with a "door with no lock no lock"--a subtle request to the reader, having entered this room, to unlock one's mind as well.[ Click to Order C.D. Wright's Tremble (soft $) ]
Overall the poems are open, an opening, an invitation to the reader to fill in the gaps of syntax. They seem about desire, alternating (unevenly) between anticipation and fulfillment--a longing, created in the more fragmented poems, and a satisfaction, found most clearly in the Girl Friend Poem series (ironic and welcome in a book full of heterosexual sex). The poems suggest rather than state . . . for the most part. "Gift of the Book," a narrow 26 word poem, seems a bit overdone however, describing sex with a longtime lover (a husband, one can assume): "reading / re-reading / the long-awaited / prose / of your / body / stunned / by the hunger." It's not a bad poem, but it's difficult to imagine why the poet who could write a tour de force like "Autographs" would include such a fragment. "Autographs" is set up like a yearbook "Superlatives" section, if people were able to be so honest at eighteen. It combines humor and sensitivity with the pornographic:
I'll drive: shift your excellent body under mine
Ideal environment: lush, well-lubricated [. . .]
State flower: bearded iris [. . .]
Most likely to succeed: the perpetual starting over
Inside his mouth: night after night after night [. . .]
Cutest ass: bend, cleave
Religion: against my fire
Kismet: I feel very fortunate [. . .]
Biggest flirt: some people have roman noses
some have roman hands [. . .]
Rambone: I need it I need it now [. . .]
Wish: compassion . . .
And it ends with humor: "PS: have a wonderful summer and a wonderful life." On the other hand, "In a Piercing and Sucking Species," seems almost gratuitously sexual:
he doesn't see anybody
in the tree
nor does she see anybody
in the grass he wires
that wiring her
he gets erect
reading this very wire
in the grass
she gets wet . . .
Later in the poem, we discover the she has "mandibles"--perhaps we were too quick too decide this species is human. Or perhaps, given the tree and the sexual nature of this relationship, we have an Adam and Eve scenario. Regardless, it recalls the second poem in the collection "Approximately Forever":
She was changing on the inside
it was true what had been written [in the Bible?]
The new syntax of love
both sucked and burned
The secret clung around them
She took in the smell . . .
She would take her clothes off
for the camera
she said in plain english
but she wasn't holding that snake
Now is this pornography? Pregnancy? Allegory? All of the above? Who knows? But it has humor, surprise, and that indefinable energy that makes a poem. For me.
The good thing about creating your own form is that it is difficult for a critic to challenge small parts of it; the critic can love it or leave it. Wright creates several "new" forms. One consists of centered and oddly spaced words and phrases and occasionally a sentence that serve to further the mood of this collection; they swell and narrow, swell and narrow. "Like Peaches" moves strangely from the harmless and unanchored "trace blaze clear," to a dream "of urinating in three streams," through the graffiti of "Forever Lynne" on a water tower, to the directive to the reader [that there are] "things that are not written in this book / don't go boring your nose in a fork of a tree not even present"--immensely ironic if one considers the floating trees (possibly) haunting the mirror of the first poem (because they are and are not there) and if one's mind works like mine and must find some bit of narrative or outside meaning (my Adam and Eve) to be satisfied with a poem. The poem ends with the assertion "we orchard," which can be read as a verb or adjective or noun, I suppose, but is richly verdant any way. The penultimate poem, "Flame," is also structured strangely, but resists interpretation more fully than any other. It is three columns of fifteen phrases each, each beginning with the article "the." It can be read vertically or horizontally, although it seems to have been written horizontally so that the last three phrases read "the burnthe burned the burning." As a form, it's totally unique; but there would be no reason to repeat it ever--an event that is both exciting and disappointing: the poet has stumbled on to an ideal form, but no one else can ever use it as effectively.
The sweetest poems, staggered through the book, are a series of six "Girl Friend Poems," each dedicated to a different woman at the bottom of the poem. They are more narrative, examining female friendship in an often sensual way. "Girl Friend Poem #5" describes a reunion with a friend: "Let's nurse one another's babies / She says even before // We tell what we've been reading." "Girl Friend Poem #6" ends the collection and seems a comment on any good book of poetry--that it is an escape, a challenge intellectual and emotionally, but overall an escape from the world you were in before you picked up a book, which, if you're lucky, will not be quite the same one you return to.
When I snap my fingers
You will wake in a dear yet unfamiliar place
You will scarcely remember your travail
You will be eating green caterpillars over a small fire
An awesome congeries of youthful men and women
Will be brushing these very tracks away